Update: 15 July 2020 – Rewritten to correct some of my own views and information.
I concede this is more of an unquantified feeling at this stage and this post will likely be added to or otherwise edited…
While Australia has both Consumer and Retail investor Protection regulatory frameworks in place, the supervision and enforcement of I feel of is rather weak and probably weaker than anyone, even Australians actually realise. This extends to their financial sector as well In terms of retail investments and retail banking. Continue reading “Australian Consumer Protections + Regulatory frameworks”→
This blog post originally documented in detail some personal concerns I had regarding the validity of ProductReview.com.au’s claims, in particular it’s claim of “independence” made via their trust centre if they also happen to supply paid services to the businesses being reviewed on their site.
The matter originated from coming across what I feel were some fairly sizeable anomalies in terms of a significant surge of suspect 5 star reviews (that were too large to simply casually ignore) on a listing during what was intended to be a casual visit to the site.
Will look to refer this to the ACCC and NSW Fair Trading in due course purely to get their opinion on the arrangement. Right now with the COVID-19 situation worsening globally together with the fact this matter is in another country and really does not affect me personally in any direct way, have decided to put any such follow up on ice.
To be honest, privacy issues aside, I am significantly far more concerned around our continued almost exclusive reliance on Facebook’s products to communicate with our friends and family and subsequently helping Facebook, a sole for profit entity, gain a very concerning amount of control over our lives collectively.
Facebook Inc. aren’t some benevolent entity, they are a business and their first and foremost mandate ahead of anything else (including a head of wider social concerns) is to ultimately maximise profits to their owners.
Decades on, I desperately struggle to see why more of us aren’t concerned about this. Please, can someone enlighten me as to the faults in my thinking here? Please?
Also, Custom Audiences. I know I am alone in this thinking, But I consider businesses uploading my personal client information as part of a Custom Audience List to Facebook a breach of my privacy. You are effectively giving my personal information over to a 3rd party and that is not OK.
Facebook use that information to their advantage by matching up information as to where I have been, where I have shopped, etc.
We really don’t need to be rewarding nor supporting Facebook’s on going track record of behaviour, and we really don’t need to help support such a company (particularly a for-profit one) taking so much power and subsequently control over our lives.
Stoney Creek appear to be a well regarded brand in the rural and outdoor sector. But have to admit, I just haven’t had the best run personally with their clothing range given the prices they charge for them. The stitching frankly hasn’t been the best – often needing to be restitched after 2 – 3 outings. Drawstrings disintegrating and unraveling, buttons falling off, and fabric that rips after only a relatively short life…
…Yes, I did make sure to use a small amount of liquid detergent rather than the powdered one as per the washing instructions on the garment label.
If compared to the other outdoor brands, they are probably on par with the likes of “Kathmandu”, slightly behind The Warehouse’s “Kiwi Stockman” range for durability, but quite a bit behind the likes of say Cactus, Earth Sea Sky, Lastrite (Footwear), Swazi, etc. To be honest, it has been a lot more economic for me to pay upfront for say Swazi (Even at full price) and get garments that have so far consistently lasted me several times longer, not to mention supporting NZ Made.
Update: June 2019 – Thrifty Australian Head Office have also since been notified and have advised they have since started working with their Dandenong based Licensee, Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, to gradually remove the offending reviews posted by franchise staff.
Have also been fielding the occasional E-mail from those purporting to be past employees of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, describing Working Conditions, etc, however have chosen not to elaborate on those here in this particular blog post.
Topping off personally my most disappointing consumer experience to date either side of the Tasman that I can recall… upon looking to place a review regarding my last hire experience with Thrifty Car Rental out of Mickelham Road, (Melbourne), discovered that the franchise owner along with certain senior staff of franchise operation Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, had posted several of their own reviews whilst failing to disclose their commercial and/or employment connection to the business…
Lawrence (Vic.) Pty Ltd. T/A Thrifty Vic Car and Truck rental – Glenn Lawrence… “Personally I think that these guys are the best rental company in Victoria. They always have great service a delivery on time with a smile. I would recommend them to anybody.“
– Source: Google Maps (This has since been removed upon advising I had referred the matter to the ACCC and CAV)
…Being the owner, of course he would think and say that about his own business.
Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s Chief Financial Officer, was also discovered to have placed multiple 5 star ratings of a number of Thrifty Car and Truck rental locations…
Some more ratings placed by the same person. He has placed 5 star ratings on at least 8 (possibly more) locations owned by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd along with 5 star ratings for a handful of other Thrifty Locations owned by other business units.
Also briefly came across this… Known employees (confirmed upon glancing at their profiles) including the owner of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd are seen posting fake ratings and reviews for Thrifty Vehicle Sales location that they operate in Dandenong.
Furthermore, if you glance at the rest of the profiles from where the ratings and reviews have come from, quite a few of them I feel appeared (at least to me) to be from direct friends to one of the Staff in question (Profiles liking and commenting on posts from the staffer’s profile and vice versa or more apparent, the staffer appearing on the friends widget of those profiles).
More Lawrence Thrifty staff posting positive reviews, this time for Thrifty Weipa. (While this may be a different business unit to Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, they are still part of the Australian Thrifty Car Rental network and any such review should disclose this)
An older review from 3 years ago posted by another employee of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd…
Here’s a more recent glowing review for Thrifty Car and Truck Rental for Footscray…
(the statement “…team that works together to achieve their goals” caught my eye as it’s not normally something posted by a genuine customer)
(The review below was quickly removed after I posted a temporary review publicly challenging it)
From then I looked at the reviewer’s other review for Coles Express, a service station very close by Thrifty Car and Truck Rental Footscray where he mentions “…as part of my job for a rental car company…”
…All the above fake reviews were the ones that were known about and could be directly linked to Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd personnel.
The last fake testimonial above was only caught by virtue that the staff member in question had posted in another review mentioning he worked for a rental car company.
In my mind, it certainly raises the question… How many of the other customer testimonials could also be fake or otherwise have been posted by Thrifty Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd personnel?
Wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd management possibly encouraged their employees to engage in the practice particularly since the owner himself was seen placing at least a couple of his own fake reviews.
Reviews posted to Lawrence Vic Pty ltd. New location: Thrifty Coburg in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. While an individual review from a profile where this is their only review is not sufficient by itself to raise a red flag, the ratio of such reviews do raise a red flag with me.
The reason why this looks fishy…
The ratio. Out of 6 total reviews, 3 were made by reviewers with only 1 review,
One of them being especially and suspiciously hyperbolic. “Wow, what an experience” is a sizable red flag to me as such reviews have in the past often been found to be fake upon my own investigation. How often would one be so over the moon renting from a car hire place?
A 4th review was made by a reviewer who has a total of 4 Google reviews to her name. However, out of those 4 reviews, 3 of them are for Thrifty locations all operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, another red flag…
There is a Michael Nguyen who works as a manager for Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s Thrifty Footscray location. Whether he is the same Michael Nguyen who posted this (in my view) rather anomalous review for Thrifty Vehicle Sales Dandenong is not able to be definitively confirmed as there are a ton of People called Michael Nguyen in the Melbourne Area.
While I acknowledge that Lawrence Vic Pty ltd isn’t alone in such antics (Far from it), Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd is the first business (that isn’t an outright cold calling boiler room “wire” scam operation) who I have both personally had any sort of interaction with and seen engaging in the posting of falsified testimonials.
Overall my hire experience with Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd was far removed from my usually smooth hire experience under the Thrifty brand in Australia. I will admit to totally letting my guard down in this instance due to trust built up from multiple positive hiring experiences before hand under the Thrifty brand. Issues with the Lawrence Franchise included…
Failure to disclose full fee structure in their written legal documentation
Upon contacting the Licensee’s HQ at Dandenong thinking that these matters would be easy to clarifty, was instead met with a defensive attitude with the chain of communication abruptly closing at “Thanks for your feedback on our disclosure”
Failure to provide a copy of the agreement at initiation of the hire requiring several follow ups. (This doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident with Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.)
Upon eventual receipt of the above, discovered a break down add on I never requested and which I strongly believe was snuck on by the RSO under IMO obvious pressure by his bosses to meet his monthly sales target. The RSO agent I strongly believe highlighted the agreement in such a way to draw my attention away from it and skipped over it in the walk through.
On presenting a New Zealand Driver’s license, Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd demanded 2 x Australian Phone numbers and an Australian Address. No where was this stated anywhere on booking nor the unified thrifty.com.au Website. This is different from Thrifty Melbourne Airport and Thrifty Melbourne city (Spencer st) where no such requirement exists.
Their employment ads suggest a rather Sales driven culture I feel (“…totally focused on achieving targets and budgets”) and this has been emphasized in Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s ads far more than for Front line roles advertised by other Vehicle Rental agencies (operating under the Thrifty banner or otherwise) I feel.
I have also since dropped a note to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) to let them know of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s conduct.
If would be fair to say that I hold the management of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd personally responsible for the matters arising out of my hire with them. Nor have I ruled out possibly taking out a case against Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) when I’m next back over the ditch on business.
In-spite of that, have since continued to rent through other ‘Thrifty’ branded business units in Australia without experiencing anywhere near the same sorts of issues. However, my continued custom with Thrifty as a brand is now under review (particularly so now that NZ AA and Thrifty Australia between them seems to have ended the hire car deals for us NZ AA Members).
In a nutshell… I consider trust extremely important in any transaction I undertake and Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd through their conduct I feel have completely failed to demonstrate this.